Recording information: The Red Brick, North Wales.
Illustrator: Ralph Steadman.
Photographers: Steve Reynolds; Dan Mancini.
The Welsh trio's third spin under the stylus, Hitch finds the Joy Formidable turning inward, but keeping the speaker cabinets aimed squarely toward the nosebleed section. Recorded in their hometown of Mold after an epic bout of touring, Hitch is the product of a band looking to both reconnect and disappear. Released in 2013, Wolf's Law saw the trio cementing its place in the current pantheon of anthemic indie rockers with a fetish for shoegaze and '90s alt-rock posturing (think Muse, Foo Fighters, British Sea Power and the like), and Hitch doesn't really deviate, at least sonically, from the template. Where it does separate itself from the two prior outings is in its lyrical themes. Where earlier offerings like "Whirring," "Maw Maw Song," and "This Ladder Is Ours" saw fit to forgo specifics for broad-stroke emotional cues, songs such as "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Don't Let Me Know," and "Fog (Black Windows)" confront the myriad aches and pains of early adulthood with disarming directness -- the dissolution of frontwoman/guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bass player Rhydian Dafydd's relationship looms large throughout. The front half of Hitch treads some very familiar ground, with the nervy, hook-filled "Radio of Lips" utilizing an alarmingly similar blueprint to the aforementioned "This Ladder Is Ours," minus the orchestral flourishes, but mid-album, things take a refreshing turn. The brooding, folk-inflected "The Brook" flirts with Echo & the Bunnymen/Charlotte Bront?-inspired gothic melodrama, as does the eerie "Underneath the Petal," the latter of which suggests that the band's pre-Hitch rendering of the Twin Peaks theme wasn't just done as a lark. The epic closer "Don't Let Me Know" impresses as well, invoking Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" in its early moments, before launching itself into the stratosphere with the kind of otherworldly, seismic heft that has come to define the band thus far. ~ James Christopher Monger